Shivam Bhargava ’22 on developing curricula with Deepu Gowda ’93 of the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine

The team of administrators, professors, and physicians developing curricula for the new Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine (KPSOM) in Pasadena, California, includes Shivam Bhargava ’22, who is spending the summer as an education intern at the school.

The scholar works in the Office of Medical Education with Deepu Gowda ’93, the assistant dean for medical education at KPSOM. The two are focused on integrating concepts of narrative medicine and medical humanities into curricula. 

Their current projects include writing a curriculum map that addresses health disparities and incorporates the arts into its pedagogy to help students grapple with “the stories behind illnesses and diseases” in memorable ways, according to Shivam. 

“When a lot of people think about things like cancer or an infectious disease, they think of the science behind it, but narrative medicine offers a more holistic perspective of healthcare by validating the experiences and reflections of the patient,” the rising senior said. “It’s a different approach that many haven’t been exposed to, but it ultimately makes you a better healthcare professional.” 

As a neuroscience major with minors in education and sociology, Shivam said Deepu’s interdisciplinary expertise caught his attention as he was searching on the Morehead-Cain Network for internship possibilities this past spring. The alumnus is a general internist who has studied the use of visual art in curriculum and interpersonal education and approaches to clinical skills training. 

“I was intrigued by his combined research focus on medical education, the humanities, and social justice, given my own passion for bioethics,” Shivam said of the alumnus. Prior to joining KPSOM two years ago, Deepu was a faculty member at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons for seventeen years. The alumnus remains on the board of directors for Columbia’s narrative medicine program and continues to teach at the university. 

Intertwining education, social justice with medicine

When Shivam declared his education minor as a second-year scholar, he wasn’t sure how he’d incorporate a growing interest in higher education into a traditional pre-med path. But supporting Deepu’s team has broadened the scope of possible opportunities for working at the intersection of social justice, education, and health, he said.

“There’s great potential for using education to advance social justice in the medical field, and this internship is allowing me to witness that from the ground up among progressive thinkers and health equity advocates,” said Shivam, who pointed to the school’s requisite that administrators have a background or training in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)–related work. 

At Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Deepu led efforts to increase inclusion and diversity in the curriculum.

The alumnus said Shivam’s interests and attention to DEI issues in healthcare have made the scholar a valuable voice in the team’s curriculum development efforts throughout the summer. 

“Shivam has been a fantastic collaborator, and his creative and diligent efforts have resulted in a meaningful impact on the curriculum,” Deepu said. 

The school, which concentrates in the biomedical, clinical, and health systems sciences, opened in summer 2020 with an inaugural class of 50 students. 

Ditching the intimidation

With a self-designed internship, Shivam said he’s had the freedom to choose where and how to best apply himself in the office, which has come with its own set of challenges. 

As a college student working at a new medical school among trained physicians and veteran deans, it can be easy to feel out of place. However, the scholar said that under Deepu’s mentorship, he’s been encouraged to take initiative, push himself outside of his comfort zone, and take the lead on projects that most excite him. 

“I’m learning how to be creative when given autonomy rather than structure, and to advocate for myself and my ideas when I see opportunities for impact,” said Shivam, who completes the internship on August 6. 

He said an advising session with Julie DeVoe, director of scholar advising at Morehead-Cain, first gave him the inspiration to propose an internship that best catered to his interests. 

“She shared that a lot of people think you should apply to everything possible, but you don’t always have to wait for someone to get back to you,” he said. “You can create your own opportunity.” 

A month after reaching out to pitch the internship idea, Shivam was on a flight to Los Angeles. When he arrived, Deepu was waiting at the airport to pick him up for lunch.

Shivam is a senior fellow at the Parr Center for Ethics, an organization affiliated with the UNC Department of Philosophy that provides resources for implementing ethics into research, teaching, and programming. Through the Parr Center, the scholar is the founder of the Bioethics Society of UNC and a member of the Ethics Scholar Program. Shivam is also the co-director of campus engagement for the UNC Asian American Center, director of UNC Holi Moli, and an undergraduate research assistant at the UNC School of Medicine and UNC Institute for Trauma Recovery.

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